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Australian envoy to PH: Fake news 'a threat to democracy'

MANILA, Philippines – Australian Ambassador to the Philippines Amanda Gorely denounced fake news as "a threat to democracy," as she praised legitimate journalists for "getting to the truth of stories."

"I think it's no surprise that I think fake news, as it's called, is a threat to democracy and something that we should all be on our toes to address," Gorely said in a question-and-answer session with journalists Tuesday evening, January 24.

Gorely added: "There's a role for the mainstream media to tackle fake news. And I have to say, I think Rappler has done a fantastic job in looking into the social media phenomena which occurred here in the Philippines during the last election, and in pointing out and bringing to light how some of these fake news sites and also trolling activity operate, because I think for most people, including myself, it was quite a revelation."

Rappler recently published a 3-part series on fake news and trolls who spread propaganda on social media: 

In a speech at a reception for journalists, the Australian ambassador also said on Tuesday evening, "One thing I would like to say to our friends in the media, to you guys, is to acknowledge the very important role that you play in a democracy, in supporting freedom of expression, and in generating ideas, in checking facts, in this era of so-called fake news. 

"Mainstream media plays a very important role in getting to the truth of stories. We admire the work that you do here in the Philippines," Gorely said.

She also pointed out that, on the part of people who work for governments, the challenge "is to do a better job of getting the truth out there, getting the facts out there, to the people."

Senators Antonio Trillanes IV, Francis Pangilinan, and Leila de Lima have all called for a probe into the spread of fake news in the Philippines. De Lima accused the Duterte administration and its supporters of spreading fake news to mislead the public, and also called on Filipinos not to believe everything they read.

Fake news has alarmed other sectors of society as well, including the Catholic Church, with Balanga Bishop Ruperto Santos denouncing fake news at the World Apostolic Congress on Mercy last week. Santos said, "They are lies." – Rappler.com

Paterno R. Esmaquel II

Paterno R. Esmaquel II, news editor of Rappler, specializes in covering religion and foreign affairs. He obtained his MA Journalism degree from Ateneo and later finished MSc Asian Studies (Religions in Plural Societies) at RSIS, Singapore. For story ideas or feedback, email him at pat.esmaquel@rappler.com.

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